Private clinics in London have been injecting gay men with a vaccine designed to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

The Gardsil vaccine provides protection from human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes the cancer as well as anal warts and cancer of the penis and anus.

The vaccine was developed by Australian scientists to be given to children of both sexes before they start having sex, and was launched in the UK last year.

The BBC reports that clinics in London have been charging gay men £450 for a three-dose course of Gardsil.

Dr Sean Cummings of Freedom Health clinic in Harley Street, told the BBC:

“We’ve had a strong demand for it. I had a man come in for the vaccine this morning. He was 24. Then I have one this afternoon who is 67 years old.

“The motivation is to protect themselves and to prevent spreading HPV to their partners.”

Roger Pebody, treatments manager at sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said it was unclear if the vaccine would be appropriate for adult gay males.

“It may be of use but we need to see some research first – so far the research has been on women,” he told PinkNews.co.uk

“There is a study going in America now which includes gay men.”

It is likely that many sexually active gay men will already have PVT, so a vaccination would not prevent them contracting it.

Critics say there is therefore no point in immunising sexually active people, but some doctors disagree.

Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant for Cancer Research UK told the BBC:

“Men who have sex with men are at a much higher risk than average of anal cancer and genital warts, particularly if they are HIV-positive.”

The government is considering vaccinating all children at the age of 11 to reduce the chance of girls developing cervical cancer in later life.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus and two of the four strains of HPV have been linked to cancer.

“It is bad enough suggesting to people that their 12-year-old daughter might need a vaccine against a sexually transmitted infection,” commented Dr Szarewski.

“I would be interested to see the response of suggesting to parents that they should vaccinate their boys at 12 in case they become gay.”